Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has requested a secretarial designation of natural disaster for agriculture for 12 additional counties as a result of drought and excessive heat during the growing season. The counties include Benton, Bledsoe, Blount, Carroll, Greene, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Roane, Warren and Weakley.

“This has been an unusual year for farmers across the state, beginning with the May flood, continuing with extreme heat during the summer and ending the growing season in a drought,” said Bredesen. “Farmers are in a tough business made even more difficult by the uncertainty of the weather. I’m glad to make this request for some much needed federal assistance.”

Bredesen made the request in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. A Secretarial disaster designation would make farmers in these and adjoining counties eligible to apply for low-interest loans and supplemental farm payments through their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

Farmers in these counties have reported crop losses generally ranging from 30 to 50 percent, and higher in some cases for corn, soybeans, cotton, hay and specialty crops such as pumpkins and nursery stock. Livestock producers have also reported feeding winter stocks of hay earlier than normal due to very poor pasture conditions.

Bredesen’s request follows a similar request in September for Knox and Sumner counties, which were designated by USDA as primary natural disaster counties earlier this month.

“Overall, we expect crop production to be below average this season as we’ve seen weather variances within a county and from farm to farm,” said Agriculture Commissioner Terry J. Oliver. “Despite the weather, farmers are resilient and are generally doing a better job of managing for weather extremes with the help of our Ag Enhancement program.”

The Tennessee Field Office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting below average crop yields this year for corn, soybeans and burley tobacco. Cotton production is expected to be up from the previous year, but down from earlier projections. The latest crop survey shows 63 percent of pastures rated in poor to very poor condition.

For more information on crop progress and conditions across the state, visit www.nass.usda.gov/tn.